Editorials: We can stop Russian election hackers in 2018 | Duncan Buell, Richard DeMillo and Candice Hoke/USA Today

The first ballots of the 2018 mid-term elections will soon be cast, but many Americans will exercise this constitutional right without much confidence that their votes will be fairly and securely counted. Partisanship in Congress and bureaucratic delays have left voting even more vulnerable to the attacks that top intelligence officials say will accelerate in 2018. Meanwhile, irrefutable evidence has revealed that Russia engaged in a multifaceted attack on the 2016 election through information warfare, and that hackers also scanned or penetrated state election infrastructure in ways that could lead to manipulation of voter registration data — and possibly change vote totals in 2018. We propose two stopgap measures that can be immediately implemented without waiting for funding or new legislation. Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that none of our current voting technologies was designed to withstand the cyberattacks expected in the coming months. This national emergency calls for Americans to act immediately before the voters’ faith in democratic elections is severely undermined. Experts agree there’s time to contain major threats to this year’s elections, but we must rapidly convert from paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections. A post-election audit involves simply checking the computer-generated tabulations against paper ballots to be sure the machine hasn’t been compromised.  

In a 2011 report, the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that voter-marked paper ballots are the only way to securely record and preserve voter intent.  Computerized election systems, including paper ballot scanners, are vulnerable to hacking. That is why voter marked and voter verified paper ballots must be used and audited as the unimpeachable official record of voter intent. Safeguarded, ballots remain available as a check of the computerized tallies and permit recounts for election results that may be extremely close or even erroneous.

The most vulnerable elections are conducted in 13 states where some or all counties use voting machines that lack paper ballots and therefore cannot be recounted. (Statewide paperless voting: Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina. Some paperless counties: Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee.) In recent years many states have replaced their insecure paperless touchscreen voting machines with paper ballots that are tabulated by optical scanning systems.


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